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Al Jazeera shut out of Morocco 2, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, North Africa.
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Morocco is the latest (of many) countries to ban Al Jazeera from operating within its borders. The Ministry of Communication withdrew Al Jazeera’s accreditation for not undertaking “serious and responsible journalism” and following “numerous failures in  (following) the rules”.

The Communications Minister insisted that Al Jazeera systematically refused to be objective and sought to tarnish Morocco’s image.

These claims are strenuously denied by Al Jazeera.

The dispute centers around Al Jazeera’s coverage of Islamists in Morocco and their Western Saharan issues. Since the Casablanca bombing in 2003 killing over 40 people, AFP reports that over 2000 people have been arrested. The long-running saga of Western Sahara and the Polisario Front is a sore topic for the Kingdom and is a firm ‘red line’ over which reporting is all but banned.

Indeed, Al Jazeera was banned in 2000 and the Moroccan Ambassador briefly withdrawn from Doha over coverage of the issue. Relations were mended and in 2004 Qatar even brokered a hostage exchange between the Polisario Front and Morocco for the return of captured Moroccan troops. Releations worsened again in 2008 when Al Jazeera was banned from covering the Maghreb countries from Rabat and Al Jazeera’s Morocco bureau chief was convicted of “disseminating false information” regarding security forces clashes in Sidi Ifni.

Morocco’s banning of Al Jazeera is widely seen as a backward-step for the country which was, at one stage, slowly liberalizing its grip on social and political spaces. Now it joins its neighbors Algeria and Tunisia as countries with closed Al Jazeera offices; not necessarily a group of countries that Morocco wants to join.